Las Vegas Sun

January 16, 2018

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Art District:

Acts to channel Burning Man at First Friday

‘Burning Opera’

It’s not so crazy that an opera about Burning Man was born in the line for the restrooms at the annual festival. Someone said, “This is so epic. Someone should write an opera about this.”

Anything can happen in Black Rock City, and it just so happened that someone else in line happened to have a boyfriend who writes opera.

Eventually came “How to Survive the Apocalypse: A Burning Opera,” directed by tenor Christopher Fuelling, a theater director and co-founder of the Art Monastery Project in Italy. Complete with lights, pyrotechnics, outlandish Burning Man-style costumes and a libretto by counterculture author Erik Davis, the highly theatrical performance is a take on the story of Burning Man. “Newbies” come across a “tribe of freaks,” and burners deal with maintaining the festival’s purity of vision while keeping it accessible to the masses.

A 15-minute review of the multi-genre opera will be presented on a Third Street stage near Lucky Lady Lucy at 6, 7 and 8 p.m. About 16 out-of-town performers will take the stage with a live band, Las Vegas showgirls and burlesque troupe Cabernet Dance.

And “Burning Opera” might return to Las Vegas someday for a workshop residency: “Given the abundant expertise and experience of its creative community, I think Vegas would be an ideal place to develop the show,” Fuelling says.

Project Alma

This entertainment and arts project, fueled by the spirit of Burning Man, plans to bring “a serious taste of the SoCal Burner sound” to Las Vegas.

Founded by Travis Lea and Eva Vega, who made regular trips to Burning Man from their home in Argentina before moving to Los Angeles in 2003, Project Alma delivers themed parties with electronic music, most notably the monthly Plump parties that cater to Burners and other members of the underground scene. Lea has been to Burning Man 11 times and, in 2004, created a sound art theme camp with Vega.

Project Alma will team up with Dancetronauts under the dome at the Plaza, then move into the showroom for an afterparty scheduled to roll into the morning. Lea sees this weekend’s event as a way to share part of the Burning Man experience. “We’ve been helping to spread the culture of Burning Man here in L.A.,” he says. “Mainly, we provide a venue for people to be creative and participate. There are enough people who have been to Burning Man, and they don’t want to wait a whole year to feel how they feel when they’re at Burning Man. And now the regionals are connecting.”


You might have seen a hydraulic scissor lift put a spaceship with a cast of costumed dancers into the air last year for the Las Vegas Halloween Parade.

The ship is mobile on the Burning Man playa, and this weekend it comes to town, pulling the 100,000-watt sound system, the Bass Station, which includes a DJ booth and room for four Dancetrohotties. Hand-built from scratch, the spectacular contraptions come with strobes, flame shooters and LED lights, and shoot smoke rings into the desert air. In short, it’s a portable dance party.

“I’ve dedicated my whole life to this,” says Captain Philthy Phil, a clean-cut DJ in an astronaut suit whose background in construction lends itself to the continuous revamping of the vehicles. “I want to take this whole show on the road, do a tour, do events in every city where people can bring their art cars and art.”

He and Captain TravNasty say they live by the Burning Man principles year-round and work on the Dancetronauts with a large crew. They’ll set up on Third Street next to Lucky Lady Lucy, then move to the Plaza for the afterparty.

Lucky Lady Lucy

When Burning Man announced the Circle of Regional Effigies project, local burners Cory Mervis, Leslie Bocskor, Nikki Danon and Merrit Pelkey stepped up to include Las Vegas. They teamed with the city to create a community build in the Boulder Plaza Sculpture Park behind the Arts Factory, and the first 20-foot showgirl effigy named Lucy was burned at Burning Man last year. The second, if winds permit, will go up in flames as the centerpiece of this week’s First Friday.

Finally. This version has been assembled in backyards across town, with Pelkey working nonstop. “It’s sort of like the Manhattan Project but completely different,” says Bocskor, referring to the distributive nature of its construction.

First Friday managing partner Joey Vanas says it will test out the possibility of urban burns.

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